I was almost not who I was in the night. Or maybe it was the day. I'm different now, but I don't know why. I was the same person I was the night before, and the night before that. When the sun was up, I felt like the same person. I even ate the same breakfast and dinner each day, so I know I like the same foods. But something has changed, and I don't know why.
"Did something happen?"
Not that I'm aware of. Not in the last few days, at least. I remembered something the other day, but it's really not that important. It happened years ago and hasn't bothered me in a long time.
"When did you notice it?"
This morning at the breakfast table.
"What did you eat?"
I told you. The same thing I had for breakfast the day before, and the day before that. I ate two slices of toast and half an avocado. My dad ate the other half.
"What did it feel like, this thing that changed?"
It felt like.... It felt like panic rising in my chest. Those butterflies everyone talks about- the nervous ones, I think- they started in my stomach. Really bad. It felt like I wanted to get up and run.
"Why did you bite yourself?"
Because I couldn't run.
"What was making you feel like this?"
I don't know.
I used to do this thing when I got angry. It happened first when he ate fries during a movie. Crispy fries. The crunch of the first bite, the breaking of the thin strip between his teeth. And the chewing. The first bite is always the worst, because as chewing progresses, it gets quieter as the food turns to mush. But the swallow is as bad as the first bite. It was true here, first. Across the room, I heard as the mass of potato made its way down his throat, only to be followed by another loud crunch, and the cycle started again. Anger flowed through my blood, and I wanted to yell at him, tell him to STOP CHEWING and let my ears have a rest from the pain. But how could I? He wasn't doing anything wrong. So instead of yelling, I started scratching. The top of my thigh so I could hide the red from others. The longer it went on, the deeper the scratch went until it started bleeding, the first few layers of skin scraped away over a ten minute period. It hurt a little more than the sounds did. I did it every time I heard the chewing again, heard the swallowing.
And then it happened at the movies. Some idiot with a small popcorn, just a few seats away from me. I don't know how he made it last so long, because I watched for thirty minutes as he shoveled the snack into this mouth. I prayed for it to end. But I didn't have access to my thigh. The longer it went on, the angrier I got, and I didn't understand why. I needed to get rid of my anger, focus it somewhere else so I could pay attention to the movie. So I started scratching at my hand, the area right between my thumb and forefinger, right on the top of my hand. I didn't realize how hard I was scratching, until I pressed too hard and yelped in pain. I was bleeding again, and I looked in horror as I wiped away the blood, only to find I had taken off a large piece of skin. I tried to hide it when I got home, but she grabbed my arm and pulled me into the light. I had to be held down as she cleaned the wound, and it was wrapped for almost two weeks.
I cried at the dinner table a few years later. Over Thanksgiving break. He baked fresh bread, the outside crunchy, the inside soft and warm. The sound of the knife cutting the bread made the hair on my arms stand up. I shrugged my shoulders to my ears. And then biting and chewing on all sides. I couldn't hold it in. "I can't," I whispered before falling into a mess of tears, my hands clamped hard over my ears. I brought my knees to my chest and stayed curled up. The table got quiet, and I was told I could eat somewhere else. How dare I be so rude. But I stayed and had to reheat my food when everyone was finally finished. I couldn't taste it because my nose was stuffy and my throat raw.
The first time it happened in public, I bit my hand until I felt something crack. The teeth marks bruised. It hurt for days.
And now I'm here.